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  1. #11
    The Pompatus of Love C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    I read that in Germany unions have seats on the boards of the corporations their members work for (the large ones, anyway), and that ideally unions and management act as partners instead of adversaries. I should read more and learn how they manage it, and how well the arrangement works.

    Of course this being the USA, we'd probably have to guillotine a bunch of CEOs before they'd ever consent to such a thing. I'm convinced that business executives here would rather have more power over their employees than the extra profit better motivated employees can provide. Or they just suck as managers and fear any other way.
    Your gardening sucks and your avocados ain't fruitin'. -- Sappho the Maestro

  2. #12
    malarkey oxyjen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    I read that in Germany unions have seats on the boards of the corporations their members work for (the large ones, anyway), and that ideally unions and management act as partners instead of adversaries. I should read more and learn how they manage it, and how well the arrangement works.

    Of course this being the USA, we'd probably have to guillotine a bunch of CEOs before they'd ever consent to such a thing. I'm convinced that business executives here would rather have more power over their employees than the extra profit better motivated employees can provide. Or they just suck as managers and fear any other way.
    Co-determination would be brilliant. It's revolutionary yet isn't so radical that it would have no chance in hell of happening.

    Make it a part of securities law that if they want to go public, this is a requirement. It would put a stranglehold on the stockholder class who demands constantly increasing returns independent of actual profits.

    From https://www.reuters.com/investigates...-cannibalized/

    A Reuters analysis shows that many companies are barreling down the same road, spending on share repurchases at a far faster pace than they are investing in long-term growth through research and development and other forms of capital spending.

    Almost 60 percent of the 3,297 publicly traded non-financial U.S. companies Reuters examined have bought back their shares since 2010. In fiscal 2014, spending on buybacks and dividends surpassed the companies’ combined net income for the first time outside of a recessionary period, and continued to climb for the 613 companies that have already reported for fiscal 2015.

    In the most recent reporting year, share purchases reached a record $520 billion. Throw in the most recent year’s $365 billion in dividends, and the total amount returned to shareholders reaches $885 billion, more than the companies’ combined net income of $847 billion.

    The analysis shows that spending on buybacks and dividends has surged relative to investment in the business. Among the 1,900 companies that have repurchased their shares since 2010, buybacks and dividends amounted to 113 percent of their capital spending, compared with 60 percent in 2000 and 38 percent in 1990.

    And among the approximately 1,000 firms that buy back shares and report R&D spending, the proportion of net income spent on innovation has averaged less than 50 percent since 2009, increasing to 56 percent only in the most recent year as net income fell. It had been over 60 percent during the 1990s.

  3. #13
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    I read that in Germany unions have seats on the boards of the corporations their members work for (the large ones, anyway), and that ideally unions and management act as partners instead of adversaries. I should read more and learn how they manage it, and how well the arrangement works.

    Of course this being the USA, we'd probably have to guillotine a bunch of CEOs before they'd ever consent to such a thing. I'm convinced that business executives here would rather have more power over their employees than the extra profit better motivated employees can provide. Or they just suck as managers and fear any other way.

    Well, there's plenty of commentary out there to the effect that the leaders of American business corporations often tend to make decisions in a somewhat myopic fashion, because the only people they are functionally accountable to are mostly holders of the company's stock, whose primary concern is usually just the desire to see the stock price increase from one quarter or year to the next. Needless to say, executive decisions that cause an immediate increase in stock price are not always synonymous with decisions that optimize the company's long-term wellbeing, and certainly not always the same as decisions that maximize benefit to employees, customers, people who live in the vicinity of production facilities and have to deal with their local environmental effects, or any other group of stakeholders who are not literal shareholders.

    This article (that I just pulled off Google) provides a concise summary of how the German system works, and some of the history of how they ended up using it:

    The main differences concern the structure of corporate boards and the influence of workers on decision making at the top. Companies in English-speaking countries tend to have one board, whose chairman is often also the chief executive officer. Employees, meanwhile, have little to no say in strategy. The company’s fiduciaries must act only in the interests of their main “stakeholders,” which are their shareholders. At German companies, all this is different.

    The differences have their origins in the 19th century. As the newly unified Germany was industrializing, Otto von Bismarck, the arch-conservative “iron chancellor,” introduced the world’s first tentative welfare laws, including mandatory health insurance and pensions, to defuse the threat of socialist revolution. Other laws addressed the many new companies and stock listings at the time, introducing a two-tier system for boards, which was originally inspired by publicly-traded companies in the Netherlands during the 17th century.

    Thus Germany made it compulsory to have one board of executive officers and another, separate, board of supervisors. This independent non-executive panel had the duty to hold management accountable and to protect the interests of shareholders.

    The next step came after Germany lost World War I in 1918. The home of Karl Marx, Germany was in the throes of revolution. Workers and soldiers rebelled, and the Kaiser abdicated. To avoid the fate of Russia, socialist labor unions and capitalist employers compromised on a series of reforms. They introduced works councils at companies, and gave employees the right to nominate one or two members to the supervisory boards.

    After Germany’s next defeat in another world war, in 1945, labor unions in the western zones of occupied Germany felt empowered to press for even more control. The American and British overlords welcomed this movement, wishing to defang the old industrial conglomerates. After all, ThyssenKrupp had made cannons and warships, Volkswagen had churned out bombs and tanks, Siemens had supplied munitions. Many companies had forced prisoners of war, Jews and others to work in their factories.

    “This effectively was the industry Hitler had used to conquer Europe,” said Theodor Baums, a European corporate-governance expert at Goethe University in Frankfurt. “It had to be made democratic from the inside.” So German employers and unions agreed that half of the seats on supervisory boards of firms in the coal and steel sectors would go to labor representatives. In other industries, workers initially got only a third of the supervisory seats.

    Then, in the late 1960s and 70s, Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt became West Germany’s first and second Social Democratic chancellors. Labor had the upper side, and now half of the non-executive directors in all public limited companies with more than 2,000 employees came from the works councils and unions. This law is known as the codetermination act.

    It forms the core of what is sometimes called “Rhineland capitalism,” says Mr. Baums. More generally, this model obliges directors to consider all stakeholders in corporate decisions. Thus German boards must, in theory, heed the concerns not only of shareholders but also of employees, creditors, suppliers, and local governments, and should take a long-term perspective that stretches over generations.

    Nowadays, the chairperson of the supervisory board holds most of the cards. He or she (in practice, it is still mostly a he) can never hold the position of CEO at the same time, but must stay in regular contact with the executive board to discuss strategy, business developments and risks. In theory, the chair can overrule labor representatives, because the chair’s vote is counted twice when there is a tie. In practice, the chairperson rarely exercises this right to prevent an outright clash with unions and employees. Supervisors and managers usually abstain from forced lay-offs for a number of years to win labor’s backing for reorganizations or takeovers.

    Such compromises took place last year when Linde, which makes industrial gases, agreed to a €60-billion merger with US rival Praxair, and when carmaker Peugeot bought Opel from GM. VW’s 2016 plan to cut 23,000 German jobs came in the form of attractive, early retirement plans for older employees and the guarantee to keep all domestic plants open. That, after all, is the idea: to take some of the sting out of capitalism for people who work for firms or live near them — even if that means some inconvenience for the people who own them.
    https://global.handelsblatt.com/comp...fferent-892389
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  4. #14
    The Pompatus of Love C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    Thanks, RM. Damn, I didn't know that German-style labor relations dated all the way back to Bismarck, a rare enlightened conservative.
    Your gardening sucks and your avocados ain't fruitin'. -- Sappho the Maestro

  5. #15
    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    Thanks, RM. Damn, I didn't know that German-style labor relations dated all the way back to Bismarck, a rare enlightened conservative.
    From my understanding of Bismarck, he was a rare enlightened anything.
    Most of time, when people ask why something terrible happened, they don't realize they are looking for someone to blame.

    --Meditations on Uncertainty Vol ξ(x)

  6. #16
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    Thanks, RM. Damn, I didn't know that German-style labor relations dated all the way back to Bismarck, a rare enlightened conservative.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    From my understanding of Bismarck, he was a rare enlightened anything.

    Well, Bismarck is certainly.... quite the historical personage in many respects.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  7. #17
    your cheapest wine Johnny's Avatar
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    I was a union member for 5 years in one of my jobs. I didn't feel any more protected or richer for it.

    If I had taken my dues and invested them in, say, SPY for the same duration, then I would have been wealthier.

    My point is, labor is not where the money (hence, power) is today. Assets are where the money is. That is the wind pushimg against unions, and it is only gaining strength. Where labor remains valued, unions do not maximize anything but motivate businesses to seek alternatives more intensely so as to continue diverting any earnings towards even more assets.
    What's the difference? It's just soda, bro.

  8. #18
    Senior Member jyng1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post
    My point is, labor is not where the money (hence, power) is today. Assets are where the money is. That is the wind pushimg against unions, and it is only gaining strength. Where labor remains valued, unions do not maximize anything but motivate businesses to seek alternatives more intensely so as to continue diverting any earnings towards even more assets.
    AI is coming for the professions. Accounting and Law are two professional labour markets that are firmly in the sights of the automators. At some stage the supposed conversation between Henry Ford II, and the leader of the automobile workers union, Walter Reuther, might come to higher prominence.

    Henry Ford II: Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?

    Walter Reuther: Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?

  9. #19
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post
    I was a union member for 5 years in one of my jobs. I didn't feel any more protected or richer for it.

    If I had taken my dues and invested them in, say, SPY for the same duration, then I would have been wealthier.

    My point is, labor is not where the money (hence, power) is today. Assets are where the money is. That is the wind pushimg against unions, and it is only gaining strength. Where labor remains valued, unions do not maximize anything but motivate businesses to seek alternatives more intensely so as to continue diverting any earnings towards even more assets.
    Good thing you're a thinker, then. I mean, it's like having insurance. It mostly feels like a rip-off, but you don't want to be caught without it.
    For many people, yeah, if you took the measly dues payment and invested it, you'd be richer...heck, even if you took your pension and benefits contributions and invested them privately, you could fare better, theoretically...but you're not likely to get the same wage + extras with a non-union employer (eg. after my $34/hour wage, I get 6% stat pay, 6% vacation pay, and about $11/hour in various pension and benefits contributions...so I'd need to make around $50/hour with a non-union company to be getting the same dollar-exchange for my labour, and then I'd have to dedicate time and effort to shopping around for benefit plans and I'd have to spend time thinking about investments and so on and so forth. So, when you factor in all the extra time you'd have to put in, you might as well just get a second union job for evenings and weekends, lol.

    ...not to mention, you mitigate the collapse of the middle class while you're at it.
    ...the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities...
    "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." ~Carl Jung

  10. #20
    your cheapest wine Johnny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robcore View Post
    ...it's like having insurance...you mitigate the collapse of the middle class...
    Sure, if it's something you can afford and want to buy then why not, especially if the assurances make you feel good? We all take our chances in the end.
    What's the difference? It's just soda, bro.

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